A Baby Bear Cuscus, One of Earth's Most Endangered Animals, Is Born at Poland's Wroclaw Zoo


A bear cuscus has been born at Zoo Wrocław!

Why is this birth so special? Only 4 zoos in the world house this species and only in Wrocław has it been bred successfully. In nature, bear cuscuses live only on the island of Celebes in Indonesia, and soon they may become completely extinct. The bear cuscus is one of the rarest, least known, and most endangered species of animals on Earth!

ZOO04384 Duza and baby
ZOO04384 Duza and baby

This animal has a massive body reaching up to 10 kg and 60 cm in length. Its bear-like fur is soft and dark. It has a large head with a short snout, piercing eyes and a pink nose, paws with sharp claws, and a long prehensile tail. It resembles a miniature bear but it is a marsupial. It lives in the rainforests on the island of Celebes. The bear cuscus is an arboreal animal but moves slowly, carefully reaching branches. It feeds mainly on leaves but also likes flowers, buds, and unripe fruits. These animals are not very social, they live in pairs or small groups and communicate via scents and vocalizations. They reproduce as they live-slowly. Although little is known about this process, it has been established that the female usually gives birth to one underdeveloped young per year that lives in her pouch for 6-7 months. The bear cuscus prefers to live in areas untouched by humans. Its inability to adapt to changing conditions makes all the obvious problems such as climate change, deforestation, or poaching even more threatening. It also hampers the research and conservation efforts. Despite such complications, the employees of the Wrocław zoo have successfully bred this species for the fourth time. This is a huge success on a global scale and a confirmation that the bear cuscus can be saved from extinction thanks to zoo breeding programs.

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Zoo Wroclaw Welcomes Birth of First Cuscus


Zoo Wrocław says that the tiny Sulawesi Bear Cuscus born there recently is the first documented zoo birth of this rare species.

According to the Zoo, only four zoological gardens in the world are part of its conservation-breeding program. This is a truly extraordinary birth, because the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus is a little-known species, it has been extremely difficult to breed.      

On March 16, 2018, Zoo Wroclaw’s small mammal keepers noticed a newborn in the pouch of the female Cuscus. Although it had been suspected for a few weeks, this discovery electrified all employees and caused an explosion of joy.

This is a milestone in saving the species, giving hope for its survival. There are only 13 Cuscus in four zoos around the world: in Batu Secret in Java (Indonesia), Pairi Daiza in Belgium, Ústí nad Labem in the Czech Republic and at Wrocław, in Poland.

The cub rarely comes out of the mother's pouch, usually only sticking out its head and tiny hands, or sometimes just the tail. For now, its diet consists only of mother's milk.

Zoo staff also confidently stated they are “99% sure the baby is a male”.



0934_Tangkoko_2013Photo Credits: Zoo Wroclaw

The birth of the tiny Cuscus is a global breeding success. A success like this takes time and team effort to create optimal living conditions – a proper enclosure, special diet and professional caregivers. As previously mentioned, Cuscus biology is unknown. The Zoo says little is known about their diet, and almost nothing about reproduction. It is only suspected they are monogamous, so a happy match is neither simple nor reliable.

Now, the keepers are excited to collect data on Cuscus rearing and share this knowledge with colleagues from other zoological gardens, to help ensure effective breeding, and the stability of the population of these amazing marsupials in the future.

The Sulawesi Bear Cuscus (Ailurops ursinus) is a species of arboreal marsupial in the family Phalangeridae. It is endemic to Sulawesi and nearby islands in Indonesia.

It lives in tropical moist lowland forest and is diurnal, folivorous and often found in pairs.

The species is currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. It is threatened by hunting, collection for the pet trade and deforestation. According to the IUCN: “It is widespread and common in suitable habitat. A density estimate (based on line transects) of 2.0 individuals/km2 was reported for North Sulawesi in the 1993-1994 (O'Brien and Kinnaird 1996). This species, however, was at one time much more plentiful. From 1979-1994, there had been a 95% decline in Tangkoko-DuaSudara Nature Reserve due to hunting and this decline may be indicative of trends for North Sulawesi (O'Brien and Kinnaird 1996). This decline is only getting worse due to hunting and the pet trade (M. Kinnaird pers. comm.).”


That's a Baby Cuscus, Not a Baby Couscous!


The UK's Twycross Zoo's Cuscus keepers were lucky enough to capture these amazing photos when the baby Cuscus, approximately 2 months old, ventured out of mums pouch! This marsupial, native to New Guinea and the surrounding islands, is nocturnal, though native New Guineans describe seeing Ground CusCus sunning themselves in the ealry morning hours! Cuscus are known in the wild to dwell on the ground and in burrows part of the time, while spending nights foraging in the treetops.





Photo credit: Twycross Zoo